Silent Crisis: Understanding the Causes of Rising Suicide Rates

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Behavioral Health Medical Director, Dr. Howard Pratt

In 2022, suicide deaths rose approximately 2.6 percent from the prior year, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The shocking rise brings the CDC’S estimated number of deaths to nearly 50,000, revealing an alarming trend in suicide rates. Dr. Howard Pratt, Behavioral Health Medical Director at Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI) highlights the concerning nature of this situation.

“Suicide rates have been increasing in the United States for several decades,” he said. “Anxiety and depression are at an all-time high. More than 49,000 people we know have died by suicide, but that number is not fixed, it is something that is going to increase as we investigate this a bit more.”

CDC research suggests that the rise in suicide rates is due to factors such as limited access to healthcare and job and financial problems or loss. This has unfortunately created a sense of hopelessness in some groups who were already experiencing daily stresses. Social distancing during the pandemic also had a lasting impact on people’s mental health, according to Dr. Pratt.

“During the pandemic, people were left with more time to themselves,” he said. “When you take away the distractions of everyday life, you get faced with having to deal with the way you have been feeling for a long time.”

One group that saw the largest increase in suicide deaths in 2022 was people ages 65 and older.

“For the elderly and for all people, having a sense of purpose is really important,” Dr. Pratt said. “Especially for this age group, part of their identity has been that they are strong, and they are the support of their family. They were just at a state where they never talked about their mental health and now for the first time, they are seeking help and that was the group that had the largest increase in suicide. It was a 35% increase in people over the age of 65.”

Mental health plays a vital role in our overall well-being. With suicide being one of the leading causes of death in the United States according to CDC data, Dr. Pratt urges those who are struggling with their mental health to speak to a professional as soon as they can. CHI offers behavioral health services and aims to connect the community to essential care.

“At CHI you have people like me, I am an adult and child psychiatrist, we have therapists here, we have a lot of resources,” he said. “Connecting to resources is the most important thing. It might not start with behavioral health; it may be with your family physician. With kids, it may be at school. At CHI, patient care comes first and that includes mental health.”